Transport chiefs have been accused of scaring shoppers away from Edinburgh’s city centre with “unhelpful” and “ambiguous” signs warning of tram work disruption.
Five electronic signs dotted along the City Bypass regularly flash up warnings that Princes Street is closed to all vehicles because of tram works and that diversions are in place.
Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city’s economic development leader, believes the tone of the messages is making shoppers think twice about driving on into town and instead encourages them to head west to rival locations such as Livingston.
The SNP councillor has now called for Transport Scotland, which is responsible for the wording used on the five signs, to come up with a more positive message.
Cllr Buchanan, who represents the Liberton/Gilmerton ward, said: “These signs on the bypass saying ‘Princes Street closed’ are unhelpful to the retail trade and it is about time the officials in government offices that are in charge of putting up these signs deal with it.
“It is just a further reason to discourage people from going into the city centre and that’s on your own City Bypass. If people see these signs, they might say ‘I’ll just nip off to Livingston instead’, especially if they are already on the bypass.
“It’s the wording of it that is the problem and it needs to be changed.”
The transport agency has defended the signs, saying that the wording has been agreed with officials from the city council.
Cllr Buchanan said he will also approach council officials to try to ensure that positive messages about the city centre are displayed on the signs.
He said: “I will be taking it up with officials because what is used now is ambiguous and gives the impression that Princes Street is closed to all business, not just vehicular business.
“I do not dispute that there is a limit to what you can put up on these signs, but regularly changing that message to something else more positive would reinforce that Princes Street is open.”
His call for action has been backed by business leaders, who have already been putting pressure on Transport Scotland to change the messages without success.
Graham Birse, managing director of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: “I agree and I’ve felt this way for some time. A number of businesses have expressed views that the signs are inflexible and give the impression that people should not leave the bypass to come into Edinburgh as it’s a no-go zone. That’s not the case – the city is functioning very well and there’s plenty of parking available.
“Any time we’ve raised this in the past we’ve been told that it’s Transport Scotland that are responsible and you almost need an act of parliament to change it, so it is good that one of the city’s leaders is now putting pressure on as well.”